Brazil’s Federal Supreme Court on Thursday voted to recognize same-sex unions in a landmark case for gay rights in a country with the world’s largest population of Roman Catholics.
All but one of the 11 Supreme Court justices backed civil union rights for same-sex couples — one justice abstained because he had previously spoken publicly in favor of same-sex unions when he was attorney general.
The court ruled that the same rights and rules that apply to “stable unions” of heterosexual couples will apply to same-sex couples, including the right to joint declaration of income tax, pension, inheritance and property sharing.
The ruling does not allow same-sex marriage, but gay rights activists hailed it as an important advance for same-sex couples. Previously, decisions related to same-sex unions were left for judges to evaluate on a case-by-case basis.
The Roman Catholic church in Brazil opposed gay civil unions and argued against the decision. Maringa Archbishop Anuar Battisti called the ruling a “frontal assault” on the family. About 140 million of Brazil’s 190 million population are Roman Catholic.
The ruling makes Brazil the second South American nation to legally recognize gay partnerships. In Latin America, gay marriage is legal only in Argentina and Mexico City.